Just because you’ve sent up a crooked cop for 10 years doesn’t mean he can’t still run rings around you, both while he’s in prison and after he’s freed on a technicality.
Before she came to partner with Detective John Penley, Detective Paula Newberry worked Internal Affairs, where her crowning achievement was tossing out the rotten apples in the Solano Sacramento Placer Narcotics Enforcement Team. Her prize catch, Charles Sherman of the Solano County Sheriff’s Department, was convicted on a raft of charges and packed off to the California State Prison–Sacramento. He’s still there when Larry Burger, another SSPNET officer who testified against him, is murdered, followed shortly by the death of Burger’s former partner, Sgt. Bobby Wing. Paula is certain Sherman has arranged the deaths, but it doesn’t matter what she thinks, since a mountain of forensic evidence—weapons, hair, DNA—marks Paula herself as the killer. Sacramento County District Attorney Linda Clarke, watching her ancient case against Sherman fall apart, is determined to pin the blame on Paula even before she finds out about all that evidence. As John and Paula sweat to beat an impossible deadline to link Sherman to the recent murders, the bad news keeps piling up: Sherman, dealt a Get Out of Jail Free card, bids farewell to CSP-SAC, and Paula is savaged by the media, learns that her house has been set afire, and gets shot by one of Sherman’s many lowlife associates. Luckily for her, there’s no more honor among the stubbornly unmemorable thieves genetically fated to double-cross each other than there is among the equally unmemorable law enforcement community of greater Sacramento.
L’Etoile (At What Cost, 2016) vividly evokes the chaotic license to kill that pervasive official corruption releases. Too bad he’s determined to weigh this tale down with so many procedural details and acronyms that even the characters complain about them.